After being the face of the Columbus Blue Jackets since he was drafted in 2003, Rick Nash will call New York City his home for the foreseeable future. The 28-year-old Nash was traded on Monday to the Rangers, along with a conditional third-round pick and minor league defenseman Steven Delisle, in exchange for Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon, and a first-round draft selection in 2013. A Nash deal had been imminent for quite some time, and the Rangers were the team most associated with the Nash rumors. The trade finally came to fruition around 2 p.m. on Monday afternoon.
The Columbus Blue Jackets made the playoffs just once, their only postseason appearance in franchise history, with Nash on the team back in 2009. They were swept in four games by the Detroit Red Wings, but the Jackets looked like a team on the rise. As a result, the Jackets signed Nash to an eight-year, $62.4M contract that following offseason to be the anchor of the franchise through the 2018-19 season. As the Blue Jackets continued to struggle and failed at repeated efforts to surround Nash with the proper talent, General Manager Scott Howson began to feel the pressure. Nash was the organization's chief trade asset and could net the team a minimum of three-to-five helpful players or draft picks and something that the organization could start to develop around.
It was at that time, back in January 2012, when rumors really began to circulate about Nash's availability. He submitted a list of teams that he was willing to waive his no-trade clause to go to. That list included the New York Rangers. All along, it seemed like the Rangers would be the best fit for the Blue Jackets because they already had a very strong roster and would be able to move some of their NHL-ready forward talent to acquire Nash. The much-maligned Howson refused to go down on his asking price and Nash stayed put. In the aftermath of the trade deadline, both Rick Nash's agent and Howson blamed the other side for making negotiations difficult. Howson told reporters that Nash had demanded a trade while Nash's camp refuted that claim. In essence, all that happened was a bridge-burning between both parties that took away Howson's leverage with other teams. Nash had to go and had to go quickly.
With NHL CBA negotiations in full force already, there hadn't been a whole lot of news about Rick Nash over the last few weeks. The free agent market needed to settle down first and teams had to get some sense of what was going to happen with the salary cap, since Nash does have a sizable cap hit. Even though a trade was a near-certainty, the deal broke quickly on Monday as Darren Dreger of the Canadian sports network TSN was the first to break the deal via Twitter. Aaron Portzline, the Jackets beat writer for the Columbus Dispatch, also confirmed shortly after.
As for what the Blue Jackets received in the deal, it'll certainly take some time to evaluate, but it doesn't look promising so far. The Blue Jackets reportedly received some substantial offers at the trade deadline, but couldn't find the right match to get a deal. Frankly, Howson got owned in this deal. Considering that he failed to get any of the Rangers' top young forwards, Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, or Carl Hagelin, and also didn't get any of their top young defensemen, Michael del Zotto or Ryan McDonagh, this is a major fail for the Blue Jackets and it does very little to improve their future.
Dubinsky, 26, is a solid player with 50-plus point potential if he gets enough ice time. He really struggled with consistency in New York, racking up point totals in the mid-40s, but he definitely possesses the talent and skill to do more. Anisimov is a big body with some development left at just 24 years old. He has only played three full seasons at the NHL level, accumulating 108 points in 244 games. Erixon is definitely a questionable player to add in this deal. He has plenty of untapped talent at just 21 years old, but he refused to sign with the Calgary Flames after being drafted and was sent to the Rangers for some draft picks last summer. For a guy who seemed to be unhappy with the idea of playing in Calgary, he must be thrilled with the chance to play in Columbus.
As far as contract situations go, Dubinsky is signed through 2014-15 with a cap hit of $4.2M. Anisimov is set to become a restricted free agent after the 2012-13 season. Erixon is still signed to his entry-level contract through the end of the 2013-14 season. The Jackets do take on a little bit of salary in this trade, but, they weren't very close to the cap anyway. The condition on the draft pick is that the Jackets get the third-round pick back if the Rangers win the Stanley Cup.
Given the Rangers roster and the likelihood of a deep playoff run, the Blue Jackets may be looking at a bottom-five pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft with that selection. With the Los Angeles Kings first rounder from the Jeff Carter trade, the Jackets will have at least three first-round picks, so they could package some picks to move up in the draft.
As of now, however, with the personnel in this deal, the future of the Blue Jackets looks bleaker than ever. Howson had to get a future impact player in this trade and what he got were supplemental pieces that are going to get a lot of ice time because they're on a bad team. It does next to nothing for the future of the franchise and they sold low on Nash because they lost their leverage six months ago.
It's a sad day for Jackets fans. Not because the inevitable finally happened, but because their chief trade chip didn't even net something to fill one of the team's gaping holes. It was expected that the Jackets would be worse without Nash, but that the trade of Nash would give them something to look forward to in the future. From the looks of it, all they have to look forward to is another shot at winning the draft lottery and selecting Nathan MacKinnon first overall in June of 2013. The saddest thing is that this isn't even a "wait-and-see" trade. What you see is essentially what you get, unless they get incredibly lucky with that late first round pick.
Nationwide Arena will be a very quiet place during the winter of 2013.